We had a chance to interview Martin Schmitt, co-founder and CEO of CarLabs and his team. They explain in detail how and why chatbots should be embraced by automotive companies.
Would be happy to hear the founding story of CarLabs. Why did you choose to focus on the automotive industry?
Martin has been a car nut since birth. After a successful career in technology, leading engineering for Shopzilla and others, he finally fused his passion for cars and technology and founded New Cars.com New Cars is a new car lead generating platform that was acquired by one of the largest car shopping portals Cars.com in 2005 for $20 million. Leveraging the auto industry experience gained from Newcars.com and cars.com Martin and co-founder Uzi Eliahou founded CarLabs.
They did not start with the goal of building chatbots for the auto industry. Their goal was to automate the difficult process of shopping for a vehicle. For this reason, they started by building a platform that created a communications architecture married to dynamic data. The platform became the intelligent agent and the chatbot became a sensor for this intelligent agent.
The conversational interface is simply the most obvious and utilitarian way to access that data. This is why CarLabs is the only company that has successfully launched a digital assistant for an automaker featuring every model, plus competitors married to dynamic data sources.
CarLabs is one of the very few chatbot companies specialized to serve a specific industry. How is this focus helping your company?
As the use of digital assistants grows, brands will expect them to solve more complex business challenges. We believe that to accomplish more sophisticated and valuable tasks will require intimate industry knowledge.
Because CarLabs is equal parts deep automotive knowledge and technological expertise in the AI/ML NLP technology that is driving the automation revolution we were able to predict the complications of automating automotive sales and customer service.
The lessons learned since product launch and the huge amounts of data analyzed have been invaluable in that they have both confirmed and challenged our assumptions about how consumers want to engage with brands and what moves shoppers down the funnel
As a result, we have optimized the user experience to save operational costs and drive leads, making it a justifiable business expense for our automaker clients.
Can you explain CarLabs’ solution? How do you think CarLabs is different than other solutions in the market?
We created a proprietary, intelligent platform that uses AI and machine learning including NLP tools to simulate a human like communications architecture married to dynamic data. We built a data pipeline that aggregates, maps and applies business logic to multiple sources of a brand’s data and digital assets.
The platform acts as an intelligent agent and the chat interface is how the consumers interact with the intelligent agent. It acts more like a conversational search engine than a typical chatbot.
The CarLabs platform uses templated questions and answers that, via API, dynamically access the specific vehicle data needed. This approach provides a better customer experience and is more cost-effective when expanded to all makes and models and competitor vehicles.
The CarLabs platform eliminates the laborious and costly task of writing conversations for one car at a time. Once the content hierarchy and conversational architecture is set for one vehicle, it can be applied to the manufacturer’s full product line.
Because we offer a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, much like Adobe, Google Analytics, Smart sheets, and SAP, we can continually improve our platform and innovate with new skills and features that are seamlessly delivered to our clients as part of our monthly licensing service.
SaaS products offer a unique combination of savings and worry-free management, and they allow you to use them on a continual basis without the need to manage dedicated servers, IT/ops teams, and development teams.
Additionally, we have built specific skills that serve auto specific functions like make comparisons to competitive vehicles or find the perfect vehicle match based on personal preferences.
Is it possible to share some KPI improvements CarLabs has achieved with its current customers? Could you please provide some details (like increase in conversions from 7% to 21% etc.)?
By leveraging automation, AI and machine learning coupled with human assistance at the right points in a customer’s journey, we can accomplish specific measurable business objectives.
- Increased brand engagement on Facebook Messenger by 50 x
- Reduced call center volume by 50%
- Achieved 24% re-engagement rates with current car shoppers
- Drove 21% of users to high value actions like get a quote and view inventory
- Traffic from our bots is more engaged: 71% of website traffic from our bots stay engaged on client’s websites for 5 or more minutes compared to just 21% of traffic overall.
Do you think it is possible to build a chatbot as capable as a traditional car dealer? For example, are you planning to conduct sentiment analysis and personalize the replies of your chatbot?
The current new car dealer sales person stays in a job on average 7 months. Training and maintaining a sales force with up to date product knowledge is an industry wide challenge. This is only getting more complicated as cars become rolling computers with increasingly more complexity. Intelligent assistants can definitely solve some of these problems and help support sales people to be more valuable sales consultants.
Our current product is less focused on dealers and instead solves business challenges for the automakers themselves. Their goal is to provide personalized customer experiences at scale to help automate sales and reduce costly call center volume. Our white labeled Digital Assistants allow consumers to interact with a brand conversationally, on their terms, as if they had personal, 24/7 access to your smartest brand ambassador. However, our assistants have also been trained to seamlessly connect to live human support when necessary and desired by the user with a goal of generating more sales leads. So the goal is not to replace humans but make them more efficient and improve customer response time.
Could you describe the general chatbot industry landscape. Who do you see as other strong chatbot providers for other industries?
CarLabs is a digital customer engagement platform that chooses to use a chat interface because of the many advantages when it comes to multi-channel mobile marketing. Therefore, we are less aware of what is happening in the chatbot development platform space. We compete more with managed chat and digital marketing platforms. When viewed like this, it becomes a very crowded space with varying levels of sophistication and levels of service.